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Bradley Bambarger
Newark Star-Ledger, April 2006

Sweden 's 18th-century Drottningholm Court Theatre, restored in the 1920s, hosted a historically minded Mozart cycle in the '80s, complete with an authentic-instrument orchestra (in period costume, even). The 18-year-old Mozart's comic hit "La Finta Giardiniera" is far better than hoity-toity critical carping might lead one to believe; it's unusually entertaining as operatic farces go, with a gorgeous score. Although not hilariously suggestive like New York City Opera's 2003 staging, the Swedish production is wonderful in its powdered-wig way.

The title's "pretend garden girl" is a noblewoman wounded by love who takes a job planting flowers while she tries to get her head and heart together. She isn't the only one at the manor who's love crazy, though, with the opera a cavalcade of romantic fools. The star-free, ensemble-oriented cast features a septet of appealing singer/actors, backed by Arnold Ostman's light-as-air orchestra. The film is rather darkly lit, but the music-box stage is exceptionally intimate.





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